Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the latest NCAA tournament projections through games played on March 10.
Two powerhouse schools, Duke and Kentucky, are as close as it gets to the last No. 1 seed and the No. 2 line in the last week before Selection Sunday for the NCAA tournament.
Though it was hard to envision Kentucky in the Final Four conversation after Duke beat the Wildcats by 34 points on the opening night of the season, a lot has changed since then.
Kentucky has become one of the nation’s best teams and the Blue Devils got even better and were a national title favorite before Zion Williamson’s knee injury three weeks ago. In today’s bracket, Duke is the final No. 1 seed behind North Carolina, a team it lost to twice without Williamson.
As much as the ACC and SEC tournaments will factor into the placement of Duke and Kentucky, injury statuses could largely determine where the selection committee seeds these teams. Both Williamson and UK starter Reid Travis have been out with injuries but are expected to play this week.
Williamson has been out for the last five games and Duke clearly isn’t the same team — the one that beat Virginia twice — without him. If the star freshman returns in the ACC tournament and Duke again looks formidable, it will be hard to bump the Blue Devils down to the No. 2 line. Duke could become a No. 2 seed if Williamson isn’t at full strength and Duke doesn’t win the ACC tournament.
Meanwhile, Travis has missed the last five games for Kentucky and is expected to be back for the SEC tournament. UK went 4-1 without him, losing to Tennessee on the road. Kentucky pummeled the Volunteers earlier this season with him in the lineup.
Currently, the deciding factor between these two teams is the opening-night neutral court meeting — despite all that has transpired since then.
► No. 1 seeds: Virginia, Gonzaga, North Carolina, Duke
► Last four in: Belmont, Creighton, Florida, UNC-Greensboro
► First Four out: Georgetown, Alabama, Indiana, Texas
• Others considered for at-large bid (in no particular order): Clemson, Furman, North Carolina State, Lipscomb
• On life support: Saint Mary’s, South Carolina, Memphis, Liberty, Dayton, Providence, Davidson, Xavier, Butler
Multi-bid conferences: Big Ten (8), ACC (7), Big 12 (7), SEC (7), Big East (5), American (4), Mountain West (2), Ohio Valley (2), Pac-12 (2), Southern (2).
Leaders or highest RPI from projected one-bid conferences — (23 total): VCU (Atlantic 10), Vermont (America East), Liberty (Atlantic Sun), Montana (Big Sky), Gardner-Webb (Big South) UC Irvine (Big West), Hofstra (CAA), Old Dominion (Conference USA), Wright State (Horizon), Yale (Ivy), Iona (MAAC), Buffalo (MAC), Norfolk State (MEAC), Bradley (MVC), St. Francis-Pa. (Northeast), Colgate (Patriot), Wofford (Southern), Sam Houston State (Southland), Prairie View A&M (SWAC), Omaha (Summit), Georgia State (Sun Belt), New Mexico State (WAC), Gonzaga (WCC).
- Transition schools ineligible to participate: Cal Baptist, North Alabama.
Note: Mostly all statistical data is used from WarrenNolan.com. The NCAA’s new NET rankings are also considered; that was rolled out at the beginning of 2018-19.
About our bracketologist: Shelby Mast has been projecting the field since 2005 on his website, Bracket W.A.G. He joined USA TODAY in 2014. In his sixth season as our national bracketologist, Mast has finished as one of the top three bracketologists in the past five March Madnesses. He’s also predicted for The Indianapolis Star, collegeinsider.com and is an inaugural member of the Super 10 Selection Committee. Follow him on Twitter @BracketWag.
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.